RCMP Constable Mat Clarabut points to the pin affixed firmly to the front of his uniform vest.
On a dark blue background, two gold-coloured maple leaves stand out.
One is for himself and the other is for his father, marking two generations of RCMP officers from one family.
That’s fairly rare but rarer still is that both father and son have the same vocation within the RCMP.
“My dad was captain of the RCMP motorcycle team back in his day,” Clarabut says of his father, Mike Clarabut, who retired with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
And now Clarabut is also a motorcycle officer, the first-ever posting of its kind with the RCMP’s highway patrol section based out of the Terrace detachment.
It’s a position that takes him from Haida Gwaii east to Burns Lake, south to Kitimat and north to Atlin.
“The first shift was July 8,” said Clarabut of his first venture out with his Harley Davidson 2005 Road King that’s especially fitted out for police duties.
Although to new to his current role, Clarabut is not new to Terrace or the RCMP.
“I call Terrace my hometown. I’ve been here since I was 14-15,” said Clarabut with the exception of time away for various reasons. That included a three-year stint in Kitimat before transferring to Terrace eight years ago.
He’s always had an interest in motorcycles, so the prospect of being a second generation motorcycle officer in his family came naturally one morning when his work email lit up with news applications were being taken for the highway patrol in Terrace.
“I’ve been a motorcycle rider all my life — motorbikes, dirtbikes — that’s my passion and now there was a chance for that in the highway patrol, to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” said Clarabut.
He applied, was accepted and then found himself at the start of a rigorous two-week training course being held in Kelowna the home base of the RCMP’s motorcycle training program in B.C.
“I can say it was one of the hardest things I have ever done — physically and mentally,” said Clarabut.
“I thought I knew everything about motorcycles. I thought I was a competent rider. But after two days it was like, ‘You think you’re a competent rider?’”
It’s not just riding — a police motorcycle has emergency lights, electronics, radios and radar just as a police vehicle has.
“This was a completely different way of riding, a different perspective — and you have to multi-task, paying attention to safety, to others, stopping and pulling people over.”
Training included learning how to weave around traffic cones at slower speeds, not the easiest maneuver considering each motorcycle can weigh in the neighbourhood of 800 pounds.
To keep up the skill level and for any new developments, Clarabut will have to recertify every year.
With the training program completed in June and his first shift in early July, Clarabut has been making his presence known throughout the region. He’s already been in Prince Rupert and has done a tour of Haida Gwaii.
And because Clarabut is an experienced officer first in Kitimat and then in Terrace, he’s well aware of local driving conditions.
“Oh, yes. The Alcan 500, LNG Raceway,” he responds when asked about the driving habits on Hwy37 South of Terrace-to-Kitimat commuters.
Motorcycles give RCMP officers an edge that a patrol vehicle cannot by being able to maneuver quickly in tight situations and being able to get to locations that might be impassable to patrol vehicles.
As much as a vehicle for enforcement, police motorcycles fulfill a role in public education and being proactive instead of reactive as a visible presence on roads and highways, said Clarabut.
Still, not all drivers may get that message.
“I have drivers tell me, ‘where did you come from? I never even saw you behind me’,” Clarabut notes.